- Associated Press - Friday, September 19, 2014

ELGIN, Ill. (AP) - A police department in northern Illinois is sending a team to Puerto Rico to recruit more Spanish-speaking officers.

Three police officers and a supervisor will leave Monday for a weeklong trip to the island. They plan to attend a university job fair and administer recruitment tests at a few different locations, Deputy Chief Bill Wolf said.

“It’s a bold move, but we’re going to invite and go after as many applicants as we can,” Police Chief Jeff Swoboda told the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald (https://bit.ly/1wx0s7T ).

The department is also expanding that testing to 13 states outside of Illinois to cast a wider net and land the best applicants.

“Every additional officer that we get that’s bilingual just makes us a higher-performing police department,” he said, adding that Spanish-speakers won’t receive preferential treatment over non-Spanish-speakers.



The trip to Puerto Rico will cost the department more than $5,000 and will be funded by money set aside for diversity initiatives, Wolf said. The out-of-state tests will be administered by National Testing Network at one of its centers. Applicants must pay a $40 fee.

“For many years we’ve done the same old thing, and it’s not working,” said Councilwoman Rose Martinez.

Roughly 44 percent of the 110,000 residents in Elgin are Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and nearly 40 percent speak Spanish at home.

The Elgin Police Department currently employs about 22 officers who speak Spanish.

“We can have shifts, the midnight shift especially, where nobody working on particular days speaks Spanish,” Wolf said.

Officers are able to use interpreters on a language telephone line. But it’s a less than ideal situation.

“When somebody is in a dire emergency and does not understand English, those are valuable seconds that can be lost,” Wolf said.

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Information from: Daily Herald, https://www.dailyherald.com

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